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Outstanding online volunteers honoured
05 December 2006

Bonn, Germany: Every year, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and its Online Volunteering (OV) service honour ten exceptional women and men who have made an exemplary impact on human development by sharing their expertise over the Internet and by demonstrating their commitment to volunteering. The winners of the “Online Volunteer of the Year” award for 2006 were announced today.

The online volunteers were selected on the basis of their enthusiasm, personal commitment, creativity and impact on the work of development organizations in their effort to reach the Millennium Development Goals. These volunteers are excellent examples of how citizens can, by volunteering online, participate in the activities of development organizations worldwide. They showcase online volunteering as a highly effective way of mobilizing action towards sustainable human development.

The winners were chosen by a jury that included UNV and UNDP representatives from country offices and headquarters as well as external partners: the Guinea Bissau Platform for NGOs, PLACON-GB, and the Government of Ireland’s programme of assistance to developing countries, Irish Aid

The online volunteers, from a diversity of countries and backgrounds, have all made a remarkable and significant impact. They have: 

  • Provided technical expertise: An American online volunteer increased the efficiency of an organization providing pro-bono legal counsel in the human rights and nation building sectors; a web-based project of an organization supporting and empowering indigenous peoples in Africa, Asia and Latin America was revived by an Australian volunteer living in Switzerland;
  • Supported the management of projects: A village in Sierra Leone is starting to recover from years of civil war through the establishment of a beekeeping school and business coordinated by an online volunteer from Colombia; two volunteers from the Philippines and India contribute to the success of solidarity tourism trips to African countries, generating income for deprived communities;
  • Contributed to developing and managing knowledge: an online volunteer from Ghana developed a web page for formulating action plans, guiding policy processes and supporting research on Avian influenza for African countries; two online university-level courses on pharmacokinetics were designed by a volunteer from Viet Nam and will be translated into eleven languages; a Spanish volunteer in Belgium enabled access for millions of Spanish speakers to large quantities of development-related training materials for free, online courses;
  • Facilitated communication and networking: A citizen of the Democratic Republic of Congo connected children and youths from refugee communities in the South Kivu region to affiliate youth and programmes abroad, bringing knowledge and friendship opportunities to their lives; an Omani national made available an organization’s plea to support Afghan schoolchildren to Arabic speakers worldwide; online volunteers from Costa Rica and Italy contributed to developing South-South partnerships between China and Latin America by translating information into Spanish.

The Online Volunteers of the Year 2006, their nationality, and host organizations are:  

  • Ayan Humbert-Droz (Australia) - Native Planet (USA)
  • Dieudonné Amisi Mutambala (D.R. Congo) - Respect Refugees (Canada)
  • Eda Eufemio (Philippines) & Lakshmi Poorna (India) - Solidarity Tourism (Spain)
  • Lourdes Sada (Spain) - Community Empowerment Collective Society (Canada) and PEOI (USA)
  •  Minh Vo (Viet Nam) - PEOI (USA)
  • Rajaa Alwatiah (Oman) - Help Afghan School Children Organization (Austria)
  • Raul Alberto Caceres (Colombia) - NABUUR (The Netherlands)
  • Shane Messer (USA) - Lawyers Without Borders (USA)
  • Solomon Sackitey (Ghana) - Datelinehealth Africa (USA)
  • Su Melser (Costa Rica) & Delia Tasso (Italy) - International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (China) 

Congratulating the winners, UNV Executive Coordinator Ad de Raad commended the online volunteers’ admirable commitment and stressed the importance of volunteerism as an essential component of the global engagement to meet the Millennium Development Goals. “Achieving the MDGs will require the participation of millions of citizens, and volunteerism helps to develop this network for global action,” he said.
“The online volunteers are truly a source of inspiration: they demonstrate, with their dedication and solidarity-driven perseverance, how anyone can get involved through the Internet and contribute to achieving the MDGs.” 

Since its launch in 2000, the Online Volunteering service has provided the opportunity for more than 900 development organizations to benefit from the talents and dedication of over 9,000 online volunteers.

"Online volunteering is all about the small steps taken by each volunteer. That is what makes big changes,” says OV of the Year Raul Alberto Caceres from Colombia. “No matter how much time you have, or your level of skill, or where you are in the world; all that is needed to be able to make a difference is an Internet connection and the desire to help.”